I was born and raised in Morocco, and lived for 30 years in America before coming to Dublin.
My wife is a Dubliner, and we have 2 beautiful little girls, and we decided that we wanted them to grow up here. I was lucky enough to step into this beautiful building, The Chocolate Factory on Kings Inn Street, and that opened up a whole new avenue for me, professionally.
One of my business partners was looking for a place to put on a gig, and met Val, who runs the building; we started talking about food, and what we’d like to do, and decided to go for it. It took us about a year and a half, but we opened The Blas Café and people love it. We stayed true to our vision, to create something modest and simple, to take this amazing space (a former chocolate factory) and maintain its integrity. Now every floor has different things happening, from graphic designers to artists to designers and architects; it all started from people with small ideas that got bigger, and bigger again. It’s the sum of everyone’s contributions. There’s a great sense of community. It’s exciting to come here. We’ve brought life back to this building.
Dublin 1 is a hidden gem. You’re surrounded by all this amazing history, on every street. It’s the real Dublin: I’m surrounded by blue-collar workers, students and traders. You go to Moore Street, and you know everybody by name. I like to buy my meat from FX Buckley, I do it all myself every day. I go to the markets in Smithfield, and find out what’s seasonal, and work with that. Dublin is experiencing an amazing growth in terms of food culture. It’s trying to create its own identity, it’s not trying to copy New York, or London. It has its own thing. And I’d like to think I’m a part of that. I brought my own thing to the mix. There’s a lot of Morocco in what we do, mixed in with the Dublin influences. Nothing too fancy. And we don’t overcharge. We’re making food for the city.
I’ve always lived in cities that grow, and evolve over time. That happened in Athens, Georgia, when I opened a restaurant there, and it’s happening in Dublin now. I didn’t fall in love with Dublin right away. When I moved here first there was a lot of crying about the recession, and the economy, things weren’t moving, places were closing. That’s changed. Now there’s a new energy, a lot of people pooling their money together and making things happen by themselves. Collective endeavour. It’s inspiring. And that’s what we did.
What do I love about Dublin? Its humbleness. It’s a humble city. And its surprises. Just when you think you’ve figured it all out, there’s always something new. I’m still exploring it.
When I get up in the morning, I can’t wait to go to work. I’m proud of it. I like being here.